What you need to know:
- It all began with a directive from Health Executive Joseph Kiragu calling for the eviction of about 200 street food vendors, citing public health concerns.
- Hawkers selling foodstuff such as samosas, chapatis, boiled eggs and smokies had their wares and tools of trade confiscated by the police and county officials.
What started as a seemingly well-intentioned move to rid the streets of Karatina town of a public health hazard has now degenerated into a full-blown dispute pitting a politician against a county official.
It all began with a directive from Health Executive Joseph Kiragu calling for the eviction of about 200 street food vendors, citing public health concerns.
The traders resisted attempts by the police to kick them out and, in the ensuing melee, about 40 of them were arrested.
The matter took a political dimension after Karatina MCA Watson Weru told the vendors to ignore Dr Kiragu’s directive and continue with their businesses. He appealed to the county government to suspend the evictions until proper guidelines were put in place.
“After yesterday’s tribulations where food vendors were arrested, I held an urgent meeting with [Dr Kiragu]. I informed him that the hustler government is not for intimidation but is for empowerment, so... hustlers should resume their businesses,” the MCA said on his Facebook page.
Dr Kiragu, in a circular copied to the county head of public service among other officials, had said his department had received complaints about the street food vendors.
“The Department of Health Services has noted with concern the open fires lit along the streets adjacent to business premises. The department has also received numerous complaints from the business community and the general public. This has increased risks of fire outbreaks, nuisance of smoke and blockage of passageways,” the circular reads in part.
“Note that selling, preparing, packaging , storing and displaying any food for sale under insanitary conditions is contrary to Section 7 of the Food, Drugs and Chemicals Substances Act Cap 254,” the circular further reads.
After the vendors trooped back to the streets after Tuesday’s botched eviction, established hoteliers and butchery owners yesterday wrote to Dr Kiragu urging him not to relent.
They argued that they are incurring heavy losses owing to unfair competition from street vendors who don’t pay any taxes to the county government.
“As members of the business community, we are very concerned about this development where, despite your directive requiring foods vendors to be cleared from the streets, it is business as usual. This is not only inconveniencing, but is also a risk to our customers who park their vehicles next to burning gas and charcoal stoves,” they said in the letter.
Hawkers selling foodstuff such as samosas, chapatis, boiled eggs and smokies had their wares and tools of trade confiscated by the police and county officials, triggering complaints that the government was targeting “hustlers” despite campaigning on a pro-poor platform last year.